Davin Kuntze of Woodside Press let us in to his Brooklyn Navy Yard shop, which is nestled safely between artisans shops and within World War I enemy fire resistant walls. More now a refuge for the creative thought than for protecting, Davin muses on the need for more letterpress in the world and bad typography (a crime against humanity) as he shows us through the space. THE PRESSES In general use we have seven presses. There is the C&P treadle press that came from the American Typefounders Company; two C&P Craftsman presses (one for printing and one for scoring and perfing); a Windmill for longer jobs; a Heidlberg KSB; and finally two Vandercooks, a Universal III for poster work, when we get it, and an SP20 that we use almost exclusively for proofing type. In addition to that we have a number of random presses in various states of repair, mostly small format platen presses that no one seems to want these days.
SIZE OF PRINT SHOP 5,000 square feet I think. It’s really too much space for one shop, but we’ve managed to fill it up with plenty of objects that inspire. But seriously, I think you should call “Hoarders.”
THE LOCATION We’re located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is home to its own strange assemblage of artists, craftsmen, furniture makers, malcontents, mad scientists, old school Brooklyn hangers-on, young upstart urban farmers … the usual crowd that is attracted to affordable industrial space. We are in a high-floor corner of a massive 11-story building that was built for World War I, and actually carries a fire-rating of “able to withstand enemy attack,” although the enemy envisioned is most likely the Red Baron. Lomography has a distribution facility across the hall from us, and the Yard also has the largest manufacturer of military-grade body armor in the country.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP The view is one of a kind. We look out over the East River onto Manhattan from the southern tip of the island, up past the Williamsburg Bridge, to the United Nations. A lot of the time it feels miles away from the frantic pace of the city. That and the radio, be it NPR or some music at a volume that will drown out the phone if it starts to ring.
NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE It’s just us at the moment. We have a working relationship with a few other artists who occasionally come in to do collaborative projects. And we’re always happy to give a tour complete with our own (possibly skewed) history of printing and typecasting.
MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL I can’t think of any one machine we’d really suffer without, but the Linotype comes in really handy for book projects. There are a number of chapbooks we’ve done over the years that would easily have taken three or four times as long without this incredibly frightening contraption.
FAVORITE INK We use Van Son rubber-based for the most part. My favorite colors tend to be very rich. Far too many designers waste countless hours deliberating between four slightly different shades of light brown which all look like, well, baby crap. Type should be black (for the most part) and you should pick an accent color that makes a statement.
SOLVENT OF CHOICE We use Power Klene VC for the presses and Blanket Wash #4 for type, both from Prisco.
BASE AND PLATE OF CHOICE We’ve used KF152 for a number of years. People want “letterpress quality,” which means we have to smack the paper too hard.
OIL OF CHOICE You got me. We have a giant barrel of some sort of oil that I’ve been using for years, seems to be 30-weight motor oil.
WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH We get our rags from an industrial rag supplier. Every month or so they show up with a barrel of clean rags and take away our dirty ones. Not very exciting.
FLOORING MATERIAL Concrete. This is the Navy Yard and our building was built to warehouse aircraft-carrier components. It can stand up to a few tons of printing equipment.
FLOOR PLAN TIPS Smaller is actually better. It keeps things simple and all your tools are close at hand. A place for everything and everything in its place. Unfortunately we don’t follow our own advice. This place is a constant battle against entropy, and I love it. But losing all six pairs of scissors for a month at a time can be frustrating.
PIED TYPE We have a couple barrels of it. An associate of the press who cuts mats and makes brand new foundry type occasionally takes a big bucket away to cast a new face. In exchange we sometimes get brand new type for the shop. Works out for both of us.
ORGANIZATION ADVICE Did you read my answer about floor plan tips? [I recommend that.]
PRINTING ADVICE When I first got into printing, I was given a book by DB Updike called “In The Day’s Work” which I recommend to anyone in any creative field, although this book is more for the practical printer. Basically it says take pride in your work, keep your shop clean and organized, and don’t let your clients make decisions because you, as the printer, are the expert. I should have read that more closely and taken it to heart. I think the three books I’d recommend for a printer starting out are “In The Day’s Work” for self discipline and self confidence; “The Elements of Typographic Style” by Robert Bringhurst, because bad typography is a crime against humanity; and “The Elements of Color” by Johannes Itten, because there IS a science to why some colors work together and others don’t.